St. Mary’s Anglican Church in Kindersley will suspend services June 24th, 2019.
St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Trenton, Ontario, with a congregation of around 50, is seeking ways to repurpose their sprawling building to alleviate financial stresses. The town of Eatonia is served by three small churches, each seeking ways to remain viable and effective in their community.
The rural and small church conundrum in Canada was recently addressed at a Small Church Consultation held in Guelph, Ontario, May 21-22, 2019. The two day meeting was sponsored by The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, along with Small Church Connections. The steering committee included staff from EFC and Small Church Connections, along with a professor from Tyndale Seminary in Toronto.
A total of 30 invited guests attended. I was privileged to attend as a consultant and adviser.
Some of the denominational backgrounds included Salvation Army, Anglican, Presbyterian, Fellowship Baptist, Pentecostal, Evangelical Free Church, Be In Christ (formerly Brethren in Christ) and the Christian and Missionary Alliance. There were professors from Acadia University in Nova Scotia, Tyndale Seminary in Toronto, Briercrest Seminary in Caronport, Saskatchewan, Ambrose University in Calgary. Another participant sits on the Board of CircleM, a rural church resource found at the University of Saskatchewan.
The Consultation agenda began with a desire to understand the rural church. Seeking input from those present, the facilitators were able to distinguish a basic cry of today’s Canadian small church.
Arising from the discussion came the term – HOPE! Where there was no glimmer of light in maintaining a congregation, the eventual closing of churches seems inevitable.
In a research paper on the rural church, which I presented on March 27th at Ambrose University in Calgary, the need for a pronounced paradigm for small churches was suggested. This paradigm needed to include the recognition of relationships as primary in rural and small churches, with the subsequent organization and daily activities focusing on people more than programs.
The recent Small Church Consultation affirmed the thrust of this paradigm. At the same time, this approach addresses loneliness and mental health issues that plague the urban landscape. The small church is not a relic of the past, but perhaps a foretaste of the future.
In a final session at the Small Church Consultation, a two pronged approach to help resource these churches was proposed. One would be to prepare events ntaionally – for education, support and cooperation. The second would be to provide a clearinghouse for ACTS – Academic research, Collections resources, Training programs and Support referencing.
The Hope is that these small steps can result in a resurgence of rural and small church vitality.
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